Wales politics

Plaid Cymru City bond idea attacked by rivals

Construction cranes
Image caption Plaid says its infrastructure fund would help build roads, schools and hospitals

Plaid Cymru says it could raise up to half a billion pounds for roads, schools and hospitals, but political rivals have strongly attacked the idea.

Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said the Build for Wales fund would help economic growth and make up for cuts.

The money would be raised through City bank bonds, but interest would have to be paid to bondholders every year.

The Lib Dems called Plaid's plan "pie in the sky" while the Conservatives said it was "uncosted".

Roads built under the scheme could have to be tolled, for example. A future Welsh Assembly Government would need to repay the money once the bonds matured after 20 years.

The policy was put forward as part of Plaid's campaign for May's assembly election.

At present the assembly government has no borrowing powers. Plaid says it is in discussion with the UK Treasury about how the fund could be established and operated.

But the Treasury has rejected calls for the Scottish government to be able to issue bonds to pay for large infrastructure projects.

It came during a House of Commons debate this week on a bill to give the Scottish Parliament greater tax-raising powers.

Capital budgets for spending on infrastructure are forecast to fall substantially over the next four years, putting the future of many projects in doubt.

'Transform Wales'

Mr Jones said the fund could help create up to 50,000 jobs in the next four-year assembly term.

"Now is the time to transform Wales into the country we want it to be," he said.

"Plaid is ready to create that better Wales. We know that the people of Wales expect nothing less of us."

Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne said: "This is a completely uncosted sweeping announcement that gives no detail whatsoever.

"It is almost as irrelevant as Ieuan Wyn Jones's economic renewal programme - which hasn't given a single penny to Welsh business since it was set up. In fact, it has done nothing."

He said Wales had remained the poorest part of the UK under the Labour-Plaid assembly coalition government. He also pointed to signs of squabbling between the coalition parties, with shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain calling Mr Jones, the Deputy First Minister, "ineffective".

Liberal Democrat AM Jenny Randerson said: "This is a typical Plaid Cymru pie in the sky policy - all sound bites and not deliverable.

"I am gobsmacked that the Plaid Cymru leader, the current economy minister, doesn't know that the National Assembly doesn't have the power to raise money through bonds."

For Labour, shadow Wales Office minister Owen Smith said: "There's an old saying in business which is 'if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is'.

"We wait with bated breath for the detail of Plaid's miraculous new policy and then we'll see how good it really is."